The web hosting industry is extremely competitive due to the fact of the massive growth of the internet and the fact that people want to have their own website. Web hosts compete against each other by offering more disk space and bandwidth for cheaper prices or free domain names along with your purchase of a web hosting plan. Many people get taken advantage of because they do not know what to look for in a web host to ensure that you are getting the most for your money.
A lot of people fall victim because they do not do their proper research of a web hosting provider before they make a purchase. While the list below is not a comprehensive checklist it does cover some of the most basic things to check for when you are looking to buy web hosting.
Contract Terms / Length
This is a biggie, especially when it comes to those hosts offering unlimited disk space or bandwidth. The fact of the matter is that web hosting providers can not actually afford to offer anything for free. There is always a catch and the catch is explained within their terms & conditions. Yeah the big wall of text that you never read because of the length but that you have to agree to. Read through the contract and you will find out just how limited your account really is and how much freedom you really have.
Considering we are dealing with computers things can go wrong at any time. When they do go wrong it is usually far worse than expected and this is why you should have multiple backups of your files in different locations. Many of the larger web hosting companies offer multiple backups that are automatically made for you but you need to make sure of this beforehand. Just because a host does not offer backups does not necessarily mean that you can not purchase from them, you just need to take extra measures to keep your files backed up in multiple locations.
You have a website because most likely you are trying to draw visitors to it in turn to make money. Having your web site go down can costs hundreds if not thousands of dollars of lost profits. Making sure that a web hosting provider has multiple options for power can decrease the chance that your server will go down. There are many sites dedicated to providing server uptime monitoring for web hosts scattered through the internet.
Negative Press / Reviews
No hosting provider is perfect and not every customer is going to enjoy their experience. Before you purchase hosting make sure to do a search for reviews of the web host. There are many sites online that provide you with honest reviews from web hosting customers. Make sure to read over the reviews carefully and to understand the negative reviews. Many times people over exaggerate a situation that could have been simply solved by themselves.
As stated above, there are many web hosting review sites out there. Some of them may also offer rewards to a particular web hosting for having the most uptime or providing the best customer service. It is a good idea to research the rewards that have been given to a web host. Some hosting providers like to prominently display the rewards that have been given to them while others have the rewards tucked away on a sub page on their site. However, just because a web host does not have an award does not make them any worse than a host that does.
This is probably the most obvious point of this list. With the industry as competitive as it is, providers are always looking for ways to provide you the most resources for as little as possible. One web host may provide 1000MB of storage and bandwidth for $ 10 a month while another may provide 5000MB of storage and bandwidth for only $ 5 a month. Write down a list of what you need and while browsing for hosting plans write down the information from each host. Then once you are done, go over the list and make comparisons to see which host will give you the most for your money.
Look For Coupons
As stated above, the hosting industry is competitive and hosts constantly have to improve their services while keeping the price low. Many providers will offer coupons that give you a free domain name, a discount on a yearly hosting package or a major discount on your first month of hosting. There are many sites and forums on the internet that look for these coupons and provide lists so that consumers can save some extra money.
Programming Language Support
Depending upon your site, you will most likely need some kind of programming language. Most hosting providers nowdays offer PHP as a standard because it is widely used throughout the word. However, your site may require additional languages to be able to function so make sure that you are aware of what languages they can provide or what languages they can provide upon request.
Customer / Technical Support
When things go wrong you need somebody to talk to no matter what time it is. Most of the major hosting companies offer 24/7 phone, live chat and email support. Companies such as HostGator have a great reputation for their customer service and are very eager to go out of their way to help you. While you may not need to contact support everyday, it is nice knowing that if you do ever need to there will be somebody on the other end of the line ready to assist you in any way possible.
Hosting Plan Details
The 2 major details in a hosting plan are disk space and bandwidth. Disk space is the amount of files that your hosting plan can support while bandwidth is the amount of traffic that your site can receive. Knowing beforehand what your site will require is essential in finding the best hosting plan for your situation. Most web hosting providers do provide extra features however they may not always display them on their main page. You may have to go digging deeper into their site to find out just what exactly they do provide with their hosting plans.
Cheapest Is not Always Best
Too many people get lured into big numbers for low prices. As the saying goes, "You get what you pay for". That works for both web hosting and anything else in life. Low cost hosting plans are almost always setup on a shared server which means that your site is shared with anywhere from 10 to 100+ other websites. Meaning that you have to share the resources between all those sites. If one of the other sites starts using up too many resources your site may experience slow load times or completely crash. It may be wise to spend a few extra dollars a month to ensure the quality of your web hosting service.
This list is by no means complete but it is a great starting point and should be reference when making a decision to purchase web hosting. Knowing the facts beforehand can save you both time and money in the long run while avoiding unneeded hassle.